While most young people are worried about saving money, some experts think they should be thinking about saving their poo as well.
By Devin Pike of Re: News
Two scientists from the United States say youthful stool samples which are more likely to be disease-free and richer in healthy gut bacteria can be used for a faecal transplant later in life.
A faecal transplant is where healthy bacteria (microbiota) from a donor is either ingested in capsule form or is transferred into a patient’s colon to help rejuvenate the bacteria in their gut.
Faecal transplants have been used to treat inflammation of the colon caused by unhealthy bacteria but the experts say it could also treat other chronic diseases such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease and aging.
In 2020, the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute studied overweight teenagers in Auckland who were receiving faecal transplants.
They found obese teenagers who took capsules of healthy gut bacteria reduced a condition called metabolic syndrome that can lead to heart attack, stroke or Type 2 diabetes.
So, is it worth banking your bowel movement?
There are already several ‘poo banks’ worldwide that carefully screen donors who provide faecal samples to other patients.
But the researchers in the United States say it can be challenging to find a good match between a donor and a patient.
“However, [faecal transplant] with the hosts’ own stool samples collected at a younger age when the hosts are at optimal health can naturally avoid or at least mitigate the donor–recipient compatibility issue.
“Participants should be more willing to accept their own microbiome samples than those of a healthy donor.”
NZ experts disagree
Professor Justin O’Sullivan of the Liggins Institute says it's too soon to ask people to save their stool.
“I think that this is kind of working on the idea that… restoring the microbiome is beneficial and there may be some circumstances when that’s true,” he says.
”The problem is we don’t understand when those circumstances are and we still don’t understand which features… are really important to do that.”
“There are clinical trials being done at the moment to look at a number of different features of this, but I wouldn’t go as far as telling people to bank their poo,” O’Sullivan says.
Professor Wayne Cutfield, also from the Liggins Institute, agrees with O’Sullivan, citing risks in using stowed faecal matter and high costs.
“Those cells are sort of asleep, they’re not completely inert and they could transform and change over time, especially if they’re banked for many, many years,” he says.
“It’s an interesting thought, but I think a flawed concept. If we see benefits, then we will want to try and [seek] out and target which are the most effective bacteria.
“We do not want to rely long-term on human donors. It’s far too costly and there are risks of humans transmitting diseases from one to another.”
Currently the long-term effects of faecal transplants have not been widely studied.
Something that Cutfield, O’Sullivan and the two American experts do agree on is that more animal and human studies are needed before this approach is accessible on a large scale.
This story was first published on renews.co.nz. Re: makes videos, articles and podcasts covering important issues that matter to young New Zealanders. You can see more stories on their website.